The Last Night You Were 4: Birthday Milestones

(Last Updated On: July 25, 2017)

Turning five is one of the hardest birthday milestones for us mommas as much as it a celebration for our children. Five marks the age children move away from infancy to school age and take their first steps into the world. It was also the hardest birthday for me as mom.

A few days after her 5th birthday, I emailed this “The Last Night You Were 4” letter to my daughter that I wrote at midnight on her birthday. She has an email address waiting for her to grow up, full of pictures, stories, cute sayings and letters like this.

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Dearest Daughter,

On the last night you were 4, I did something strange you may not yet understand (wait ’til you’re a mom). But watching you turn 5 is strangely hard. It marks the end of your preschool days. You are now my little girl instead of my baby.

On the last night you were four, I cradled you in my arms in your nursery rocking chair. Your legs draped over my lap and onto the floor. Your head took up roughly the same amount of space your entire body did the day we first met you.

I read to you the first book I ever bought for you. I had read Guess How Much I Love You to you every NICU visit the first week of your life. Then I read, On the Night You Were Born.

Both books speak to the wondrous, precious gift you are to me, to our family. Then we said your prayers, and I tucked you in. I gave you just a few extra hugs and snuggles and walked out of the room, trying not to feel the swirling emotions that risked falling from my eyes.

But at midnight, as you turned five soundly sleeping, I tiptoed to your bedside. I scooped you into my arms and nuzzled my cheek next to yours. Listening to your sweet, still babyish noises of half words and sighs, I smelled your hair fresh from the bath, and kissed your velvet cheek. “Happy Birthday,” I whispered as tears sprang to my eyes.

Every Day was a precious gift.

I will never get back a single moment of your infancy, those rushed and panicked days when I was just learning who you are and how to do this mom thing.

5 is a milestone for mommas as much as for our babies! Read my touching letter to my daughter. Click To Tweet

I will never get back those first steps videotaped on a broken camcorder. I will always remember that you learned to run on vacation, making circles around Grandma’s house, pajama pants on your head.

Never again, will I hear your first word. Babies all say da da da. Does that count as Dad?  Very early, you mimicked ‘bye’ to everyone’s surprise when I dropped you off at daycare, but didn’t start a trend of talking. You were my quiet girl…

Until you weren’t.

Now we can’t get you to be quiet most of the time. You tell everyone how to drive, which is hilarious and infuriating. You want to know everything about everything. And I love it, even when it wears me out. You make me tell you stories over and over.

I miss holding you on my chest while you napped. Those months of just resting in letting you rest on me were too fleeting. I knew it would go too fast, and tried to memorize the weight of you on my shoulder, the sound of your tiny snores, and your angelic sleep face.

Turning 5 is one of the hardest birthday milestones for mommas as much as a celebration for our children. Read my touching letter about watching her turn 5.

I don’t want to hold you back, just hold onto these moments a little longer.

You’ve already started losing the babyish silly ways you would say things. I’m struggling to hold onto them as you start maturing. You still say pasketti and hosipal and yogrit, but baboon for balloon faded years ago. I don’t want to hold you back, just treasure each tiny part of your being tiny just a little longer.

I watch you playing softball and see you starting to pull away towards your friends just a little bit. But my heart still leaps for joy when you race towards me as if it’s been weeks, when it was only an hour.

Your tiny hand grows in mine imperceptibly slowly everyday, so I hold it as often as you will let me, even when you’ve been playing in the red dirt of the ball diamond, compounded by sticky fruit snacks.

Dear Daughter, I don't want to hold you back, just treasure every moment a little longer. Click To Tweet

You are beautiful in so many ways: the way you have one curl of stubborn hair in the middle of your forehead that refuses to be tamed or grow, the way your eyes sparkle when you really smile and laugh, the way your heart is full of love and kindness for others.

Turning five is a milestone for us mommas as much as it is for our children. Read my touching birthday letter here.

You are already not my baby anymore, and I’m trying to be OK with that. I’m not really, but I also love the new level of conversations we can have. I love watching you tackle a task that used to be daunting and conquer it with ease. You don’t need me quite so much in the minutia, but will randomly get “stuck” in a shirt that is too tight around the sleeves. I think you sometimes ask for help because you like knowing I’m there to help just as much as I sometimes still like to be asked. Sometimes, I think you’re just trying to avoid going to bed.

On the last night you were 4, I was grateful.

Grateful beyond belief that you were alive to turn five, healthy and strong, smart and powerful, creative and kind. It was bittersweet to welcome in a new era of childhood, one of more independence for you and more letting go for me, but I couldn’t imagine wishing for anything more than getting to be your mom on this journey.

The last night you were 4 was bittersweet, torn between old memories and new adventures. Click To Tweet

I have things I would do differently if I could do them over. Remind me to hold you close and listen to your hurts when, as an adult, you remember my less than stellar moments. Since time travel isn’t actually possible (despite your current fascination with the subject), I can’t have a do-over. Instead, I keep trying to get it better next time. Yet, as you keep changing, I have to keep learning a new set of rules, a new way to love you.

Which is hard because part of me will always see that teeny tiny little bitty in the NICU when I look at you, even when you turn 40 because that is what moms do.

These birthday milestones reach into my heart and beg time to slow down.

And watching the clock change as you went from 4 to 5, made me realize that no matter how hard I try, I can’t really hold on to every memory. They start to fade and slip away out of my conscious mind, but every one is etched into my heart.

I have never known a person more intimately and completely than I know you, and I can’t wait to see what 5 has in store for you. I love you all the way up to the moon and back, sweet girl and have since the night you were born.

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22 Replies to “The Last Night You Were 4: Birthday Milestones”

  1. I read something the other day, that was along the lines that we never know it’s the last time we will do something until the time has passed. We don’t know it’s the last time we’ll scoop them up on our hips, or the last time we’ll rock them before bed, or the last time we’ll drive them to school! Happy Birthday to that precious girl!

    1. There is a book about that. I’ve never been able to make myself read it. My mom almost bought it for me but started sobbing looking through it. But her telling me about it has helped me remember to cling to the little things.

  2. Oh this is so beautiful! I was going to do this for my kids but somehow never got around to it. What a precious gift you are leaving her! And yea, you never stop seeing that baby…

  3. I totally just shed a ton of tears into my morning coffee. LOL! I love you guys so much. What an amazing gift to be able to give to our little now medium sized girl. The baby years are so preciouses. I have always said that if I were to have three wishes the very first one would be to hold my babies as babies just one more time. Sometimes I think God made them so adorable and sweet as babies so that we would have something to recall when they are in their big kid and teen years. Focusing on how precious they were and being able to close our eyes and see their sweet face helps a mother to refrain from leaving an oversized baby in a basket on someone’s doorstep! HAHAHA!!!!

    1. I wish I could go back and visit each stage for a hour. It would help me remember better the little things we forget AND be grateful for all the things that she has grown out of. Like diapers. I miss the baby but love that she is potty trained!

    1. I am trying not to re-read it because I would start bawling too. But my little one is creeping up on six and I feel like five went faster than I could imagine. My advice would be to take more pictures together. Write down more memories. Take five minutes a day to treasure what is special about this stage. I wish I could go back to those early survival days and enjoy them more.

  4. Beautiful thoughts for your baby. my baby turns 14 this weekend and my momma heart cannot handle thinking in 4 years maybe less she will move out and on her own

  5. This is so beautiful to read. My mom recently wanted to read a favorite childhood story to me (I’m in college now) and she broke down in tears at the end remembering all the times we had read it together when I was small.

    1. Thank you! I broke down reading a story my mom used to read to me when I was very young. There was something tremendously special about sharing that story with my own daughter. I bet you will treasure that story for your own children someday.

  6. This made me tear up. My daughter is 4 and can’t wait until she is 5. I can’t believe she will be in kindergarten next year. I miss those baby years already.

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